For over four decades, Thamel has been the tourist center of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. Small grocery stores, budget hotels, restaurants, pubs and clubs line the crowded streets of Thamel quarter where cycle rickshaws, two-wheelers and taxis ride its narrow streets alongside hundreds of pedestrians.
Here is where Gyan’s elder brother works in a Travel Agency as an office boy. His scarce wage is very much needed at home. His mother, a chronic disease patient suffering from lung and heart condition needs health and prescriptions in a country generally regarded as failing to meet international health standards. His father’s salary, working in a shop as a helper, is never enough to cover the family needs as Gyan’s mother’s medical expenses are higher than the family income.
So when Gyan’s brother introduced the family a new friend, a Dutch Child Psychiatrist named Peter, the whole family, and especially the youngest of the house, Gyan, saw a release to their economic struggles. Peter used to visit Nepal two to three times a year and always came back to Gyans home, bringing expensive gifts, food, clothes, games and toys.
Peter became a close family member. A kind of a special friend, eager to help the family. When he asked Gyans to visit his hotel room for the first time, the child didn’t imagine what his life will become in the next four years. That very first time, Peter touched and sucked Gyan’s penis and the boy, aged 11 years old, was paralyzed. A mix of shame and horror kept him shocked while he was raped by the foreigner.
After that first abuse, Peter paid much attention to Gyan, who suddenly started enjoying expensive clothes, a bicycle and a brand-new mobile phone. The family was enchanted by Peter’s gifts. New clothes, a TV and a laptop, money for the house rent and school expenses. Gyan was the sole member of his household to know that all that kindness and generosity was in exchange of sexual exploitation. In the next four years, Gyan couldn’t stop the situation. Gyan was terrified by Peter, who asked him not to share the abuse with anyone so he would stop providing support. The stigma, the shame and the burden of feeling responsible for the well being of his family, kept Gyan silent for four years of continuous sexual abuse.
“Being abused was an unexplainable feeling. It was awful, but I could not understand was exactly what was happening to me. I could not share with anyone what was happening. He made me promise not to disclose it to anyone.”
Terre des Hommes Netherlands and its partners know that breaking the silence for child victims is a huge step ahead so we accompany, counsel and protect children who have been victims of perpetrators. Our work doesn’t stop there. When our partner in WATCH Project spotted the perpetrator hanging around with Gyan, the staff decided to research on him and immediately informed the police. Along with Gyan, his family and friends, our social specialized team collected information showing that the perpetrator was abusing children for a long time and built a rapport which was the base document for police investigation.
The perpetrator was finally arrested and the police rescued Gyan from his hotel room. The criminal was charged under rape and pedophile and his case was filed in Kathmandu court who sentenced him to 9 years of prison.
Gyan was assisted with psychosocial counseling to boost his self-confidence and motivation and to improve his social interaction. Children who had suffered a trauma because of sexual abuse need to be supported to recover self-empowerment and self-esteem again.
Child victims are very vulnerable victims. Commonly, they have to confront their own families who don’t want to present charges because of the social stigma. The process of recovery is hard and long.
The physical scars can disappear, the psychological scars can remain forever. This is a long journey for those who had been victims of sexual predators and, as any other journey, starts with a simple step ahead.
For Terre des Hommes, this very first step is about supporting the victims, helping them to accept the situation and accompany them to face the problem, not just working with child victims but also with their families.
We work in strong collaboration with police and lawyers and we train them on how to do their work in a child-friendly manner as child victims of sexual exploitation and abuse are extremely vulnerable. Terre des Hommes also enroll child victims or at risk of exploitation in engagement activities, education support, and immediate care.
You are part of this. Nothing would be achieved without your help and commitment. Thank you for joining us against child exploitation.